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Day 2: Namaqualand to the Orange River, South Africa with Nomad Tours

The Orange River

The Orange River in South Africa

Nicole and I managed to get the rain cover on the tent despite the pouring rain, thunder and lightning.  The morning came too quickly.

At 6 a.m., I heard the rustle and chatter of people.  Nicole and I packed up our personal belongings and loaded them into the truck.  Breakfast for 23 people, prepared by Mxolisi, was ready at 7 am.  These guides work so hard.  Up before everyone and last to go to bed.  And smiling.

People spontaneously helped us break down our tent.  How nice!  The spirit of cooperation is strong already.  To the people that were helping I said “Danke Schoen”.  When in Rome!  Or South Africa.  With Germans.

Everyone helped to load up the chairs and wash and dry dishes and soon we were off.

We were told this would be a long day of driving and the roads would get worse.

We drove beside fields of wheat, orange groves, grape crops and rooibos tea crops.  Although I know I’ve repeated myself on this point, it bears repeating: South Africa is stunning.  The scenery has been one good surprise after another.

Morrison wasn’t joking about the road.  I wore my seat belt strictly to avoid hitting the roof of the truck.  I was bouncing around like a lotto ball in a cage.

Now, the scenery flattens.  Cream colored soil replaces the red of the Cederberg Mountain area.  Small rounded hills replace the jagged peaks seen 100 kilometers back.

Now it is dry and treeless, with low-lying shrubbery and nothing else.

Then, out of nowhere the landscape changes again.  Mountains of boulders appear as if a giant had made piles of stones.  And suddenly the heat intensifies as if someone flipped a switch.  We are getting close to the Namib desert.

Flat tire! Boo!

Flat tire.  Shit!  Or Scheiße, depending on your language.

As the road gets bumpier and the landscape gets drier – Bang!  One of our tires pops.  All in harmony the entire group shouts “Scheiße!” (“Shit” in German).  I had to laugh.

We make a supply stop in Springbok, so named because there used to be plentiful water there and the Springboks would come to drink.  It’s a modern city with modern housing and all the amenities.  Except wifi.  I was unable to find a cafe or anyplace to get a wifi connection.

The people in Springbok look noticeably different than in Cape Town.  Apparently, the Dutch settled in Springbok and bred with the native Khoikhoi people (called the “Hottentots” in South Africa).  This cross-breeding has produced a unique looking people.  In South Africa, these people are called “Coloureds”.

Now further on the landscape changes to look much like the mesas in Utah.

The Orange River, famous for being the place where diamonds flow into the Atlantic, is there beside us.

We see the Namibian border crossing.  This is our last day in South Africa.

We arrive at a fully equipped and lawn-covered campsite within a mile of the border.  Barbed wire fencing is the only indication that we might not be in paradise.  Many go off to swim in the Orange River while a German man and I help wash dishes.

The meal is Braai (barbecue) tonight and Mxolisi has been so nice as to get me some veggie patties for the grill.

After dinner, one by one, we go around the circle and introduce ourselves.  Nicole translates each person’s story for the four people who speak only German.  I am the only American.  The only person in their forties.  There is a smattering of 50 and 60 year-olds and the rest are in their twenties, many on a break between degrees.  There are five solo women and two solo men.

Getting ready for bed, three women and I stand petrified at the bathroom entrance.  A large insect is guarding the door.  Its body is as big as my thumb and with appendages, including what appear to be pinchers in front, it is palm size.  “You first”, I say.  “No. You!” I hear in reply.  The one with the weakest bladder lost.  Thank God that wasn’t me.

We enjoyed the night sitting by the fire.  Everyone is getting to know each other.  Although most people are speaking German, I can gather a lot from body language and the occasional English conversation.  It seems like a nice group of people.

Tomorrow, we move on to Namibia.

Disclaimer: Nomad Tours has offered me a discount in exchange for documentation of the experience.  I have complete freedom to share my thoughts truthfully.  All opinions are my own.

Photos of the Trip from Namaqualand to the Orange River, South Africa :

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